The furor seems to have died down somewhat as the day of the fiscal-cliff  deadline draws closer, and since UN Ambassador Susan Rice withdrew her name from the running for Hillary Clinton’s successor as secretary of State; but there are still questions about Benghazi that need answering for which Secretary Clinton and Barack Obama are liable. The deadly terrorist attacks on the consulate in Benghazi are still under Congressional investigation, but we’ve yet to hear any testimony from the head of the State Department.

The State Department has been rather waffly on whether or not Secretary Clinton will indeed testify on the attacks, although she was reportedly meant to testify at meetings this week — but the State Department is now saying that an illness and a fall she sustained last week mean she won’t be able to make it for the time being. Via The Hill:

Clinton was expected to testify at a hearing this Thursday but will be sending her two deputies, William Burns and Thomas Nides, after contracting a stomach virus and suffering a concussion during a fall last weekend. Thursday’s hearing will be preceded by a closed-door briefing of both committees on Wednesday.

“It was her intention to be there. If she had not been ill, she would be there. And she’s also committed, including in a letter today to the committee chairmen, that she looks forward to having an ongoing conversation with them herself,” Nuland said at her daily briefing Monday. “She has, including in a letter today to the two committees, made clear that she looks forward to continuing to engage them in January, and she will be open to whatever they consider appropriate in that regard.”

Might I ask why is this process dragging on so long? There is much too much dithering going on in the Obama administration for comfort, and the American people deserve answers — especially in light of the fact that al Qaeda is not as “decimated” as the picture Obama’s foreign policy team has been painting for us might suggest.

For most of its existence, AQIM had been confined to kidnapping Westerners traveling in the remote deserts of Algeria, Mali, Mauritania, and Niger and other criminal enterprises. Sources in the U.K. say it raised 50 million euros this way. This spring, after a military coup in Mali, AQIM found a partner in Ansar al Dine; together, they swept out government forces from the north of Mali, and now they control a vast Saharan stronghold the size of Texas. AQIM is also at work in Libya, especially around Benghazi. Spanish and French leaders are now labeling the new AQIM strongholds in Mali and Libya the gravest threats to regional stability in more than a decade.

Update: The Advisory Review Board report, investigating the security shortfalls in Benghazi before and during the 9/11/12 attack, on which we’ve all been waiting is now complete, by the way — the unclassified portions will be released this week, and Clinton’s deputies will be testifying on its contents. But, if the House and Senate panels still feel the need to talk with Clinton to get to the bottom of the situation, the State Department is claiming that they will “be open” to continuing to engage in ongoing conversation… whatever that means, exactly?

An independent review of the terrorist attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya is complete, the State Department announced Monday.

The Independent Advisory Review Board completed its report and presented it to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton this morning, department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said. …

According to the State Department, the report will be released to leaders on Capitol Hill this week. Review board chairs Thomas Pickering and Adm. Mike Mullen will brief House and Senate leaders about the report in a closed-door Wednesday meeting.